TEAMS from the Visayas and Mindanao competing in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, according to PBA legends Kenneth Duremdes and Jojo Lastimosa.
“They’re no pushovers, especially Davao Occidental and Cebu,” said Duremdes, the 1998 PBA MVP and member of the PBA’s 25 Greatest Players who is now commissioner of the MBPL.
Davao Occidental won the championship in the four-team preseason tournament held last month in Polomolok, South Cotabato, and has stacked its line up with ex-pros at the last minute before the submission of lineups.
The Tigers made a last-minute move to acquire ex-PBA champion Leo Najorda, veteran forward Mark Yee and talented guard Bonbon Custodio to join two other ex-pros in the line up named earlier — Bogs Raymundo and Billy Ray Robles.
Cebu Sharks, the lone Visayan squad joining this season, will have four ex-pros backstopping the team, including two-time PBA champion Jondan Salvador, forward Frederick Rodriguez, Cesar Catli and Patrick Jan Cabahug.
The Sharks will be handled by former San Miguel Beerman Gilbert Castillo.
Three more teams from Mindanao — the Zamboanga Valientes-MLV, General Santos City Warriors and the Basilan Steel — are also trying to prove their worth.
The Valientes have ex-Barako Bull guard Reed Juntilla, journeyman Leo Avenido, former Purefoods player Rob Sanz, and comebacking players Jonathan Parreno and Noy Javier in the lineup. The team also had Von Lanete, brother of Garvo and Chico, who are now both playing in the PBA, and former Imus Bandera center Arden Guiyab.
General Santos City Warriors, who will be supported by Golden State College, will be handled by Ramon Pido, who played 20 years ago for the Pampanga Dragons.
Although they only have two ex-pros in Marlon Basco and Jeremy Bartolo, the team is confident in bringing a deluge of homegrown and amateur standouts to carry the forth.
Basilan will be counting on Jojo Tangkay, a tried and tested star guard who played for Sta. Lucia and Rain or Shine in the PBA. He will be supported by the Daa brothers — Dennis, who played for Sta. Lucia and Dino, former swingman of Letran — and will also be counting on its reliable supporting crew headed by Mark Ababon, a crack guard from the south, former Parañaque Patriots center Jonathan Belorio, Mark Acosta and Clark Bautista among others.
“Historically, madaming magagaling na players from the south talaga,” said Duremdes, the pride of Marbel, South Cotabato.
His former Alaska teammate, fellow PBA great and now Bataan mentor Lastimosa, agreed.
Lastimosa was a pride of Cagayan de Oro and was part of the Visayan invasion during the early 80s where he became the star player of Mama’s Love in the old PABL.
“I think most of the guys who are now part of the Vis-Min teams (in the MPBL) have played here in Manila. They’re no different from the players from Luzon,” wrote Lastimosa in a text message.
“They’re at par with the teams here and I won’t be surprised if these teams beat teams from Luzon.”